Walking more steps daily may strongly lower diabetes and high blood pressure risk

In a new study, researchers found that middle-aged people who walked the most steps-per-day over an average of 9 years had a 43% lower risk of diabetes and a 31% lower risk of high blood pressure compared to those with the fewest steps.

In addition, among the women in the study, each extra 1,000-step resulted in a 13% lower risk of obesity, and those with the highest step count were 61% less likely to be obese, compared to women who walked the least.

However, there was no link between a lower risk of obesity and the number of daily steps walked for men in the study.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

The study results were based on data from 1,923 participants in the national Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.

Men and women wore accelerometer devices in 2005-2006 for at least 10 hours or more per day for a minimum of four days. An accelerometer is a wearable device that measures physical activity such as walking.

The team says walking is a widely accessible form of physical activity, and steps-per-day is an easy measurement and motivator that most people understand and can easily measure given the booming industry of wearable technologies or smartphones.

The results add to the growing evidence about the importance of regular physical activity for improving heart health, and that preventive effort can be effective, even as middle-aged adults move into older adulthood.

Based on the current findings, the team wants to expand their research and examine how walking speed might affect heart health risks.

The bottom line is that adding more steps to everyday life may feel more accessible to people who want to live healthier.

The team says diabetes and high blood pressure are not inevitable.

Healthy lifestyle changes, such as attaining and maintaining healthy body weight, improving diet and increasing physical activity can help reduce diabetes risk.

This study shows that walking is an effective therapy to decrease risk.

For people who find the idea of a daily, extended exercise period and physical activity regimen daunting, shifting the focus to accumulating steps throughout the day may help them become more active.

The lead author of the study is Amanda E. Paluch, Ph.D., an assistant professor.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2020.

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